So, you’re ready to create a blog, but there’s SO many things to think of that you don’t even know where to start. It’s okay, really. We’ve all been there. I’ve got you covered on this one, so let’s get started. Oh, and before we go any further, assume that if a product I mention has an affiliate program, I’m on it. That’s what helps pay for this site.
I’ll break down the tasks in the order that they should be tackled, so you can just relax and follow the steps.
Best Site To Create A Blog:
This should be your first, and probably one of your biggest decisions that you’ll make right at the start. There are so many blogging platforms out there, some free, some not – how do you ever choose?
If you’re just going to create a blog for personal reasons, and aren’t interested in monetizing it down the road, go ahead and choose a free platform like wordpress.com (a hosted web service) or Weebly. There are others as well, like Wix, WordPress.com, Squarespace (not free, but still a hosted service), Blogspot – all have their own rules. For instance, Wix (on the free plan) shows advertisements on your site. You won’t have control over your asset (your blog) and there are rules about advertising and what you can and cannot do, but since it’s just for personal enjoyment it won’t matter.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to real business. If you want your blog to make some money at some point and you want control over what you put on it, then you really have to own it, and that means PAYING FOR IT. So just to confuse you further, WordPress.org is actually a free, open-source platform, but you still have to pay for hosting it somewhere. We’ll get to that later.
If you are having trouble deciding between WordPress.org or Squarespace, head over to Style Factory Productions; there’s a very detailed article comparing both.
My preference has always been WordPress.org – self-hosted, open-source, scalable, hands down the best platform for serious bloggers and online businesses. I did a little searching around for some statistics on WordPress, and I found that:
WordPress runs 28.9% of the entire internet.
There’s a great post over at Codeinwp detailing everything WordPress, if you’re needing more stats and convincing. It’s also where I got the one above.
Okay, so now that’s decided. Congratulations! Time to get to some fun stuff.
Start Your Blog:
Picking a good name for your blog (that isn’t already taken) is pretty exciting. Again, there are lots of sites out there to buy domains, but my favorite is NameCheap. They are straight forward and not forever trying to upsell you; they are also cheap.
Next up is a hosting provider. I’m going to assume you took my advice and decided to use WordPress.org as your blogging platform. (If not and you went with a hosted blogging platform, you can skip this section on hosting/installing/themes).
There are lots of hosting providers out there, but one of my favorites is SiteGround. They’re fast and have great customer support. Enough said.
Once you have your domain name and your hosting provider, point your domain name’s DNS to your host. That done, you can install WordPress through your cpanel in SiteGround. You will receive your login info to go to your WordPress dashboard. KEEP IT SAFE. When logged into the dashboard, this is where you will choose a theme, either a free one, or find a paid one to upload.
DOWNLOAD A FREE STEP BY STEP CHECKLIST TO CREATE YOUR BLOG FAST
I love using the Genesis framework with a child theme for my sites. Genesis and their child themes are paid themes, but are SEO friendly, are cleanly coded and work well. ANY theme you choose, make sure you add a child theme so when the parent theme updates, you won’t lose any custom colors or styling you have done, because that’s where you’ll make any changes to the theme. Also note that most, if not all themes won’t look like their preview does when they are first opened. You will have to tweak them yourself, or have a designer customize it for you.
Here’s a list of some of the most useful plugins I’ve found:
- Akismet – to catch spam comments.
- Yoast SEO – very useful to help with post SEO and to integrate social media.
- Ninja Forms – great for your contact page form, highly customizable for lots of other forms.
- Click to tweet – allows readers to click a section of your post to tweet.
- Pretty Link lite – super useful to do 301 redirects if you change location of a post, and to customize affiliate links.
- Social Warfare or Shareaholic – for share and follows on social media – a must have on all your posts, of course.
- Updraft Plus – best I’ve found for a site backup. You can backup to Dropbox, email, Amazon and a bunch others. Paid, but worth it
if when your site goes down and you need to restore it.
- Sucuri – a great security plugin to limit login attempts and lots more.
- Google Analytics – great to be able to see your traffic at a glance from your dashboard.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but do remember that using too many plugins will affect how fast/slow your site loads. Depending on your niche and theme, you may require image sliders, appointment calendars, etc. However may you have, keep them to what you really need, and KEEP THEM UPDATED!
SET UP YOUR NEW BLOG:
There are a number of tasks you need to check off your list now – before you start posting content.
- Branding – decide on your brand colors and fonts now – much easier. Keep a file with the fonts and hex#’s of the colors you’re going to use as a fast reference. You can thank me later for this one – it’ll save a TON of time.
- Create a sitemap – this is so the search engines know your site exists and they will crawl it. If you have the Yoast plugin, it’s really simple to do it through there.
- Install Google Analytics – go here to get started; it’s free, and absolutely necessary to track data about your website such as:
- number of visitors to your site
- popular pages/posts
- whether visitors are viewing your site on desktop, mobile, phone
- what country visitors are coming from
- page errors
- and loads more
- Configure your site title and description under Settings/General. You can also customize it through the Yoast plugin. It’s important to choose a short, descriptive tagline that best outlines your blog. This will help SEO and allow visitors to find you easier.
- Now is also the time to set up your social media accounts that link your business together. It’s super useful to have your social media accounts set up with the same name and colors as your blog – just part of your overall consistent branding. You can do this as well through Yoast and your social share plugin that you installed earlier.
- Set up your favicon – a.k.a. small logo. This can be an image or even just your blog initials. It’s what shows up in the browser tab when you’re on a site. It’s a small (32×32) image that you upload through FTP to your site.
This is the time to decide on what autoresponder to use. This service will collect your emails through your opt-in forms that are on your site. While there are some free ones to use such as MailChimp, they often have serious shortcomings if you really want to grow your business. Not all email providers are created equal!
My favorite when starting out is Aweber. They have been around for years with a good track record, cost $19/month, and offer a lot of opt-in templates to get you started. They also have a free trial for the first month.
Now for a few basic pages:
- About page – spend some time on this one; it’s one of the most looked at pages. Visitors want to know who you are.
- Contact page – a basic page for people to send you a message. You can set it up through the Ninja Forms plugin and add the code.
START YOUR ENGINES AND POST!
Finally, right? Congratulations, you made it to the starting line. Now is the time to:
- brainstorm blog topics
- create an editorial calendar with your topics
- start creating some good freebies so you can start growing your email list. Keep it simple! Checklists, quick reports, nothing fancy yet.
- set up Aweber and up an opt-in on your blog to collect emails.
- check out some affiliate sites in your niche so you can link to them in your posts and start to earn commissions.
- START BLOGGING CONSISTENTLY.
WHEW! That really was a lot of work and for those of you that completed the whole list – good for you. You now know how to create a blog from scratch.
I’d love to hear your comments or questions.
If you know someone who is starting out, feel free to share this post with them.
DOWNLOAD A FREE STEP BY STEP CHECKLIST TO CREATE YOUR BLOG FAST